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Silvertone Flat Top Conversion

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by DavidV, Apr 29, 2021.

  1. DavidV

    DavidV Tele-Meister

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    I've had this Silvertone 319 flattop for a couple of years now after pickuing it up for cheap on FB marketplace. Looks gorgeous but plays like a dog! Kind of par for the course with these guitars right? The biggest problem is that goofy bridge which is both too low and too high at the same time. Not enough break angle from the tailpiece, and the neck needs a reset to get anything close to a reasonable action.

    Finish is that great checked nitro that you only get with decades of age. It probably never played well since the only wear it has is from sitting in a vinyl case. Good bones though with a flame maple neck and solid birch soundbox... It's not a vintage Martin but hey at least there's no plywood.


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    Ladder braces and a...bridge plate. Seems like I could convert this to a regular old steel string bridge with pretty minimal effort, do a neck reset in the process, and end up with a decent little parlor guitar. I've never done any of that but I think I've seen some of it done on youtube. So I'm pretty much an expert right?
     
  2. Fixcinater

    Fixcinater TDPRI Member

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    The old Demont page has a bunch of ideas on “kitchen” neck resets for these types and the other Harmony models, you have to click through the WayBackMachine to access them all, though.

    Unless you are looking to build experience with steaming and then carving the neck joint/shimming it correctly, “slipping the back” may be the way to go.

    I’ve been building my tools and experience towards doing it the “right way” just because I want to be able to do it that way but the other ways sure are less potentially tone-changing.

    Not sure about the bridge, that full length plate may be spruce or birch, I have a couple Sovereigns that have spruce plates that I wouldn’t trust to a pin-style bridge. Maple blanks are pretty cheap from Stew-Mac or other luthier shops.
     
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  3. DavidV

    DavidV Tele-Meister

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    In my mind the reset should be the absolute last thing to do so I'm going to start with the bridge, then do the fretboard work, string it up, then calculate what I need to do for the reset. I think a lot of those variables are going to change the angles on their own.

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    I'm starting to prep this rough blank of ebony by planing one side flat with a handplane.

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    Then flip it upside down and plane a true flat side with my router jig.

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    Then joint on true edge for the front of the bridge.

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    Layout.

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    Drilled bridge pin holes and routed the 1/8" saddle slot

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    I guess people normally use spindle sanders to thin the wings but I don't have one so I used a rasp and sandpaper.

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    Filling some tearout with CA glue and sawdust,

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    Starting to shape the back side

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    Draw the rest of the owl
     
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  4. Blazer

    Blazer Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Way cool. You're teaching that old dog some new tricks.
     
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  5. DavidV

    DavidV Tele-Meister

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    After locating the new bridge position I laid down some low tac tape and carefully cut around the bridge with a razer knife.

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    Nibbled away at the finish with a gooseneck scraper. It took a lot of trial and error to find a tool to do this cleanly.

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    Definitely not enough clamps

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    Came up with this on the fly to evenly distribute the clamping pressure, now I know why there are tools for this.

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    This is for reinforcing the spruce bridge plate. It's oak which might not be ideal but it's flat sawn which should help to keep it from splitting along the bridge pin holes.

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    Waxed the bolts, glued the plate and fished it in. This was one of the most frustrating maneuvers.

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    Don't have a bridge pin reamer. Chucked a steel rod in my drill and sanded the taper on my belt sander. Cut the slot with a hacksaw.

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    Now for the scary part. I'm doing the kung fu neck reset which involves cutting the tennon flush with the neck, then using bolts and threaded inserts to put the neck back on. Since it's my first ever neck reset I want to be able to take it off if I haven't sanded the heel enough. Also I just like the serviceability of bolt on necks. Everything should be easy to work on.

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    That clamp on the soundbox helps to open up the kerf for my saw.

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    Softening the hide glue

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    That wasn't too bad actually, I'll cut that piece of dovetail off and put it back where it belongs.
     
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  6. DavidV

    DavidV Tele-Meister

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    Thanks guys! One more post for tonight then it'll be a longer break, started this about a week ago

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    Drill 1/4" holes through the neck block, then transfer marks to the neck with a pencil from inside the body.

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    Drill, tap, and screw in threaded steel inserts. These are 3/8"-16 outside threads, 1/4"-20 interior threads

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    Drop in thin superglue and screw them in. Actually it would have helped to do this before drilling to harden the endgrain up a little bit.

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    Figured I'd make the fretboard a little less cheap feeling while I'm at it. Cheap frets that will probably buzz when I get the action lowered, painted on fret markers, and decades of someone's religious use of boiled linseed oil. At the very least I'm going to put in a radius and some decent frets, I have some binding too but that may be too much.

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    Sand in a radius with this 9.5" aluminum radius block. Using some good quality 3M 60 grit paper makes this a much quicker job than before.

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    Originally I figured this was cheap walnut but it has that spicy cinnamon smell that makes me think it's actually rosewood... Or at least rosewood adjacent.

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    Fretboard extension was getting a bit too flexible for my liking so I'm strengthening it with a piece of bubinga veneer. The angled kerf is to keep it from ending sharply at the body joint.

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    Clamp with wood glue and a flat caul.
     
  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Good project. I think I would have tried a standard steam-it-apart reset but I've also done a saw-the-neck-off reset when I couldn't do the steam thing. You'll have a great playing and probably pretty funky sounding guitar when you are done.
     
  8. PingGuo

    PingGuo Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Very Cool!
     
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  9. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Friend of Leo's

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    This is really cool. Can’t wait to hear how it comes together and plays!
     
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  10. wadeeinkauf

    wadeeinkauf Tele-Afflicted

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    Great project!!!
     
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  11. DavidV

    DavidV Tele-Meister

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    Settled on some abalone dots to replace the painted fret markers that were sanded off. I already had these on hand and I'm not really set up to do block inlays or I would have gone that route.

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    Bending this Sintoms fretwire just a little tighter than 9.5" in radius

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    Cutting the frets to length

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    Hammering them in

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    Levelled, crowned, and polished frets. Also I'm pretty impressed with the fingerboard wood, which is out of character for these old Silvertones.

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    Sanding a radius in the saddle and getting the height to around .5" from the top of the soundboard. Which should give me some wiggle room when I fine tune the action.

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    Strung the guitar just to see what string tension does to the top and the neck. I actually slowly brought it up to pitch over the course of a few hours and let it sit with string tension a couple of days so the top can settle in.
     
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  12. DavidV

    DavidV Tele-Meister

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    I'm reusing the old nut but it obviously needs to be cut down to match the thinner fretboard.

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    And the action is a mile high but the neck reset will address that.

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    First I'll tackle the nut. My assortment of nut files and half a pencil.

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    Making a line to file to.

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    Angling the file towards the tuning posts

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    I also widen the back sides of the nut with bass nut files to help prevent binding. Can't help but address the tearout in the pic as well. The bottom of the nut was covered in glue and took that chunk out when I knocked it off.

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    Used a neck reset formula to calculate the .087" mark here at the bottom of the heel. https://www.liutaiomottola.com/formulae/Reset.htm

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    Taking the bolts out

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    Pulling sandpaper the full length of the heel until I hit the scribed line. This took a considerable amount of time and skinned knuckles. I can see why neck resets would cost so much.

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    And the new action is around 6/64" or 2.5mm. pretty acceptable for me. I'll still need to fine tune the action on the treble strings but I'll do that at the saddle.

    The next installment will be intonating the saddle and maybe some demos. I recorded a little bit before I started this but it's just on my phone. I don't have way to record good audio with video so I'll have to look into that.
     
  13. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Whoo you are FEARLESS! That is nice work.

    These guit-boxes were not stiffly braced for glued-on bridges; that's why they had the archtop-style bridge and trap tailpiece. Did you confirm there's sufficient bracing inside the top to support the tension on the bridge? If there are no longitudinal braces--just transverse ladder braces--it may not hold up.
     
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  14. DavidV

    DavidV Tele-Meister

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    I have been considering adding some auxillary bracing on either side of the soundhole where these tend to start folding. Mostly just waiting for a someone to call me out on it to go ahead with that plan :D

    Originally I was going to take the back off as well and rebrace the top with x bracing but I wanted to keep the finish original.
     
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  15. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    I understand. I brought it up not because I wanted to call you out, but because it would be terrible to do all that top shelf work and then have the guitar go Taco Bell on you.

    An option that would work would be to install a floating brace like how the JLD Bridge Doctor works. It would keep the bridge flat while adding hardly any mass/stiffness to the top.
     
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  16. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Many years ago I learned a cool trick from Frank Ford of Gryphon in Palo Alto, CA. For brace rebulds on vintage Gibson mandolins, he removes the back by cutting along the joint where the binding meets the sides (the blue line in your pic here).

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    Frank uses an Xacto razor saw with the spine removed to slice all the way through the joint--right through the kerfed lining--all the way around.

    The secret is to not touch the sawn surfaces on the sides or back with any tool or sandpaper. When it gets glued back together it gets a very thin wisp of clear lacquer over the line all the way around to seal the finish. The only way you can see the line is if you look really closely.

    Additionally, the repair has to be completed in a few hours because the sides tend to move around if left disassembled overnight, causing the fit-up on reassembly to be less than perfect.

    Frank is the guy behind Frets.com. Click on "Info for Luthiers" and you'll find an encyclopedia of information, tips and tricks for stringed instrument repair. It includes plenty pf pictures of repairs in progress, which is a huge help.
     
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  17. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Peegoo's points are good - there are very different forces on a pinned bridge guitar than on one with a tail piece. In fact it is kind of ironic that many ladder braced guitars have tail pieces, the bracing will withstand the downward component of string tension very well.

    Pinned bridges have a large rotational component of tension at the bridge and X bracing does a very good job of countering that - the stiffest part of the X is located at the weakest part of the top, you still get the rotation but the energy from the bridge goes into the X and thus the top.

    It is very likely that you will have some rotation with the ladder bracing - whether the top can withstand that you'll find out. There were a lot of cheap ladder braced guitars that had pinned bridges - Gibson LG-1, some of the cheap Harmonys and they have distinctive sounds. I have two ladder braced guitars - a 1932 Stella six string with a pinned bridge and a copy of the old Stella 12 strings which has a tail piece.

    It will be interesting to see how your guitar responds and how it sounds.
     
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  18. 1bad914

    1bad914 Tele-Afflicted

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    Nice work
     
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